Good fortune had a lot to do with the ambitious and groundbreaking performances planned during the International Janacek Festival and Conference in Denton.
Tom Sovik, a member of the University of North Texas music faculty, said Denton was the only spot where anyone would get a chance to hear the baroque compositions of Leos Janacek.
“In music history texts about Czech music, out of thousands and thousands of pages about it, there are three paragraphs about the baroque music. That’s how little we talk about this stuff,” Sovik said.
On Feb. 8, the UNT Baroque Orchestra and Collegium Singers will perform Musica Bohemia.
“Most people will have never heard the piece performed live,” Sovik said. “When we were looking at these really big pieces, you couldn’t perform these with just a college symphony. You’d have to rent out the specialized instruments. You’d have to bring a lot of stuff in. We’re lucky in that we have all of that here at UNT.”
And “all that” encompasses the early music program’s Baroque Orchestra, complete with historical instruments designed and built to be played as they were in the baroque era. “All that” also includes the Collegium Singers, the university choir trained to perform baroque choral music.
And “all that” includes a partnership between UNT’s College of Music and a sister program in Brno in the Czech Republic, which has ferried students and faculty back and forth between Brno and Denton since 1993.
Leos Janacek is considered one of the great Czech composers.
“On one end you have [Bedrich] Smetana, and you have [Antonin] Dvorak Almost everyone knows Dvorak — everyone has heard him. Then on the other end, you have Janacek,” Sovik said.
Janacek was composing when European countries were in a resurgence of nationalism.
“At that time, the Germans wanted their music to be German, and the French wanted their music to be especially French. As much as the Germans and the French embraced their nationalistic culture, Janacek went to the extreme,” Sovik said. “He was the one who collected Moravian folk songs. He preserved them and he used those folk songs in his classical compositions.”
So when Denton patrons attend the concerts scheduled during the conference — which will attract academics from all over the world to UNT — they will be hearing Janacek’s response to his love of country.
The conference is also the site of a United States premiere of a new orchestration of Janacek’s Zapisnik zmizeleho (The Diary of One Who Disappeared). The University Singers, A Cappella Choir and UNT Opera Theatre will perform the piece — and Otce nas (The Lord’s Prayer) — at 8 p.m. Saturday in Winspear Hall.
“The world premiere of the piece [Zapisnik zmizeleho] was performed at the Janacek Academy in Brno, in the Czech Republic, where Janacek spent a lot of his days. It was performed, in Czech, not by Czechs, but by students from Texas singing in Czech,” Sovik said.
The conference and the performances are part of the partnership the College of Music established with the Janacek Academy in 1993. Groups of students and faculty have traveled from both Denton and Brno as the college and the conservatory exchange a deep cultural education about Czech music and its lasting impact on the world, and on Texas, which has a significant population of Czechs and Texans of Czech heritage.
“We took them to Brno and they studied the language, working really closely with native speakers and musicians, to do the world premiere justice,” Sovik said. “The second half of the exchange is the U.S. premiere here in Texas.”
While local classical music fans get to see rarely performed work by the celebrated composer, Sovik said the professors and graduate students will dive into Janacek’s theoretical system.
The project includes Sovik; Maestro David Itkin, who conducts the UNT Symphony Orchestra; Paul Leenhouts, director of the Baroque Orchestra; Richard Sparks, the director of the Collegium Singers; and Jerry McCoy, director of the A Cappella Choir. Paula Homer, director of UNT Opera Theatre, and Stephen Dubberly, musical director of the UNT Opera Theatre, also joined the project.
Sovik said expansion is on the horizon. Dignitaries from the Janacek Academy in attendance will sign documents to continue the Denton-Brno exchange.
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Here are some of the concerts planned during the International Janacek Festival and Conference at the University of North Texas.
ON THE WEB: The concerts listed below will be streamed live online. For webcast links, a full schedule and more information, visit http://janacek.unt.edu .
• 8 p.m. Wednesday — The UNT Symphony Orchestra presents “An Evening of Czech Works by Janacek, Dvorak and Suk. David Itkin conducts. Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors; free for UNT students.
• 5 p.m. Feb. 7 — UNT Composers’ Chamber Orchestra presents Vec Cage (The Cage Affair) by Ivo Medek, Alois Pinos and Milos Stedron. Jessica Morel conducts. In Voertman Hall at the Music Building. Free.
• 8 p.m. Feb. 7 — ISHA Trio: Lucie Rozsnyo, soprano; Kristyna Vaculova, flute; and Sara Zalcikova, piano. In Voertman Hall at the Music Building; Free.
• 5 p.m. Feb. 8 — Faculty and student chamber ensembles present “Chamber Music of Janacek” in Voertman Hall at the Music Building. Free. A pre-concert lecture will be in Room 258 at 4:15 p.m.
• 8 p.m. Feb. 8 — The UNT Baroque Orchestra and Collegium Singers present Musica Bohemia, with conductors Paul Leenhouts and Richard Sparks. In Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors. A pre-concert lecture will be at 7 p.m. in the Instrumental Rehearsal Room at the center.
• 8 p.m. Feb. 9 — University Singers, A Cappella Choir and UNT Opera with chamber orchestra present Janacek’s Zapisnik zmizeleho (The Diary of One Who Disappeared), Otce nas (The Lord’s Prayer) and other works, with conductors Richard Sparks, Jerry McCoy and Vit Spilka. In Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors. A pre-concert lecture will be at 7 p.m. in the Instrumental Rehearsal Room at the center.